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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Independent author and amateur beefcake

Monday, October 24, 2011

Slumming It...The Last Werewolf

This post is more about a current trend in fiction than an actual book review...but, since it's also a book review, I'll treat it accordingly.

The Last Werewolf - by Glen Duncan

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you—and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide—even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerising and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century—a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

One of the most original, audacious, and terrifying novels in years.


Audacious?  Terrifying?  No, not really.  Can't say as I was holding on to my chair much during the reading of this and that's not a complaint against the book it's a complaint against the publisher trying to sell the book.

I feel bad for publishers right now.  See, they have these literary heavy weights releasing books about Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies (oh, my).  What are they supposed to do about this?  The writers aren't tackling them as a normal horror writer would.  They're not getting their hands too dirty but just dirty enough to lend it a horror classification.  So the publishers are trying to sell books and, of course, they're doing it the only way they know how...appealing to that horror demographic, knowing full well that there's a section of 'literary' readers that aren't going to be following these authors into the trenches.

Not to send you away so early in my blog post but here's an excellent article about what I'm saying.

The strange thing about this situation is that, previously, horror writers have crossed that border on more than a few occasions without much ado.  Stephen King and a few of his stories come to mind, Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, The Green Mile.  So, I'm not sure I'm happy about how these authors, delving into Horror for the first time, are getting such accolades for their courage and kudo's for breaking down the typecast author.  I can't but feel as if they are selling out, somehow.  Literary fiction, not being the type of book one grabs just before a long flight or hospital stay, has always been the frame but not the engine of the publishers car.  After seeing Twilight and Harry Potter at the top of the best seller list, for the better part of a decade, I'm thinking, they see that money can be made from writing.  After all, in seven years J.K. Rowling went from unemployment to billionaire.  (or so the story goes)

The one thing I can be happy about is that it certainly puts the pressure on horror writers to focus more on the writing and less on the imagery.  There's a few, out there, I could name but won't, that have some fun books to read but without the idea's, pushing the novel forward, I would have given up on, long ago.

Back to the novel, at hand.  The Last Werewolf...

Beautifully written and fleshed out.  The attention to detail and world building, I thought, was meticulous.  

Currently I'm reading Zone One, a zombie tale, written by a previous lit fic heavy weight (shouldn't say previous, I'm sure he'll keep that standing) that tries too hard to keep the lit the center of attention and not the horror.  Werewolf knows where it stands.  Duncan knows that he's writing a horror novel and so makes sure to keep the story moving with action.  Where as, in Zone One, pages go with nothing but memories being described.  It's akin to listening to your grandmother tell you about what's going on in her 'Stories.'  I'll dive into Zone One, on here, when I'm done reading it.  It just makes for a good comparison, right now.

You get your Werewolves and you get your evil people, as well, which most often are the actual horror element of a horror novel, after all what's scarier than a deranged psychotic human?  Exactly.

My qualm with this book, and it's a small one, is that it starts strong, the first third is right into the story and setting up the finale.  Then, a character is introduced and it goes into sexapaloozaland (an actual word, look it up) before getting back on track and hitting the gas again, for the final third.  It's during this middle part that you can see that Duncan had an issue with just allowing the book to remain in horrorland (which, oddly enough, shares a border with sexapaloozaland).  For this middle third he throws in all the esoteric thoughts and flourishes of ideas and words that most lit/fic fans will appreciate.  For me, and I do like lit/fic, don't get me wrong, it almost made me put the book down.  It's just that, when I want a werewolf to ravage a maiden, or a brawny dude for that matter, I want it to happen, not think of happening or think of how it might happen if the world were a different place or...you get the picture.

Still, I have to recommend this book, the writing, as I said, is excellent and, in the end, Duncan pulls it off.

I guess, also in the end, if the authors are going to meet us halfway, to horrorland, then we, the reader, might want to do our part and head towards litville. (a small country known for stamps in Europe)

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